Wildfires Scorch Parts Of Europe Amid Extreme Heat Wave

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Wildfire burns in southwestern France
European officials are blaming climate change for a spate of wildfires burning throughout the region.

A spate of wildfires is scorching parts of Europe, with firefighters battling blazes in Portugal, Spain and southern France on Wednesday amid an unusual heat wave that authorities are linking to climate change.

In Portugal, Civil Protection commander André Fernandes said that multiple fires have caused the evacuation of more than 600 people. About 120 people needed medical treatment, with two people — one civilian and one firefighter — suffering serious injuries, Fernandes said.

Water-dumping planes helped 1,300 firefighters combat the worst of the blazes in the nation’s central area, while another 1,000 worked to bring other fires under control.

The European heat wave is also sparking flames in Spain and France — and in Turkey at the other end of the Mediterranean.

More than 800 firefighters battled two wildfires in the region outside Bordeaux in southwest France, according to the regional emergency service. The fires began Tuesday near the towns of Landiras and La Teste-de-Buch, and firefighters hadn't been able to contain them by Wednesday morning.

About 6,500 people have been evacuated from campgrounds and villages in the forested area. The number of injuries is unclear. The two fires have destroyed more than 4,400 acres of terrain, the emergency service said.

Images from firefighters showed flames racing through thickets of trees and grassland, fanned by strong winds, and smoke blackening the horizon.

The regional administration banned activity in forested areas at risk. Several regions in southern France are on fire alert because of hot, dry weather and high winds. Wildfires swept through the Gard region in southeast France last week.

Portugal has long experienced fatal forest fires. In 2017, wildfires killed more than 100 people. No one has died from a wildfire since then as Portugal improved its forest management and firefighting strategies.

Last year, Portugal recorded its lowest number of wildfires since 2011. But a mass of hot and dry air blown in by African winds are driving temperatures in the Iberian Peninsula beyond their usual highs.

The Atlantic country, which has been on alert of wildfires since last week, is sweltering under a spike in temperatures that is forecast to send thermometers in the central Alentejo region to 115 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday and Thursday. Authorities said that 96% of the country was classified at the end of June as being in either "extreme" or "severe" drought.

More than 7,400 acres had been consumed alone in the district of Leiria, just north of Lisbon, Mayor Goncalo Lopes told Portuguese state broadcaster RTP.

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, who canceled a trip abroad to deal with the emergency, said that better care of woodlands and abandoned farmland was key to protecting them.

Neighboring Spain hit highs of 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit in several southern cities on Tuesday.

Over 400 people were evacuated on Tuesday because of a wildfire that has consumed 8,600 acres in western Spain.

European Union officials issued a warning last week that climate change is behind the extremely dry and hot summer so far on the continent, urging local authorities to brace for wildfires.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.